• Role: Audit Trainee
  • Location: London
  • University: Cambridge
  • Degree: BSc Natural Sciences
  • Organisation: Mercer & Hole

Jennifer Ansell

Why did you join the profession?

Having completed my degree in Natural Sciences, I came to the conclusion that a science-based career was not for me, and felt it was time for a change of tack. As a result, I found myself as a trainee accountant at Mercer & Hole.

I joined the firm straight out of university without the first idea about anything to do with accounts. This isn’t unusual. In fact I don’t think any of the trainees in our office have an accounting or finance background: it takes all sorts!

The learning curve was initially quite steep, but with the help of supportive colleagues, after 18 months at the firm, I now work pretty independently on jobs such as accounts preparations. The learning continues, but there is always someone to answer any questions I have.

A typical week

This week has been a fairly standard week in the office. So far I have spent my time juggling bookkeeping, accounts preparation, and an audit. Most of the audits we do are for small companies, which is excellent for me as a trainee: I have to work on all aspects of the audit, which broadens my experience, and means that I come away with a good understanding of how the business works. Before joining Mercer & Hole, I never thought I would say that business was interesting, but there you have it. Having smaller clients also means that audits do not usually last more than a week or two, meaning that the work is always kept varied.

The audit this week has been done from the office, but often a couple of the team will go out to the client’s offices to do the work instead. I work in the London office, and most of our clients are based in or around London, which is convenient, although I have found myself in France on one occasion! Going out to clients provides a great chance to meet people.

I have also worked on audits for charities and pension schemes, which have a different set of requirements to the majority of businesses. Being exposed to such a diversity of clients is excellent experience, and I like to think it is shaping me into a well-rounded auditor.

Office life

I enjoy life in the office. The audit team is small, so we get to know each other well, and often go out for lunch together on a Friday. Working at Mercer & Hole has given me a good work/life balance. We have 7.5 hour days, and are rarely required to work much beyond this.

The company has a flexitime policy, allowing you to start your day any time between 8 and 10am, which is perfect if you want to squeeze in a bit of marathon training before work (or maybe have a lie-in, depending on personal preferences). The best part of office life though has to be the unwritten (but very well spoken) rule stating that all birthdays must be marked by the provision of cakes. We rarely go hungry.

I have been in the office this week, but spent last week at college, as alongside work, I am also studying for my ACA qualification. The learning is rather rapid, and after 18 months at the firm, I have only my final exams left to sit. I was initially a little apprehensive at the thought of working full-time as well as studying. However, whilst there is an element of having to study at evenings and weekends, these periods are usually quite short-lived. Coupled with having such reasonable office hours, I find the juggling of work and ACA is quite manageable.

All in all, my ‘change of tack’ from my degree appears to have been successful. I have a role that continues to challenge me, as well as a respected qualification in the pipeline, wrapped up in a package of reasonable hours and friendly surroundings. That’ll do me nicely.

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